In 1986, the United States looked very different than it does today. Ronald Reagan was president. It was the year of the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster and the blockbuster film Top Gun. LGBT people were largely marginalized. Latinos hadn’t yet become a surging political force. And while AIDS had begun claiming countless in the gay community, it was only in 1985 that the larger public became more fully aware, due to the sensationalized death of star Rock Hudson.
It was in this era of the so-called “Moral Majority”, a largely white, conservative, Christian view of America, that author Michael Nava crafted one of the most unlikely of literary heroes: Henry Rios, a gay, Latino criminal attorney with a passion for justice. Himself an outsider, Rios acted on behalf of those without a voice, often wrongly accused of crimes. While introduced in The Little Death, Rios would go on to solve mysteries in a series of seven books, culminating with Rag and Bone in 2001.
As the revolutionary Henry Rios series finally comes to e-book, Michael Nava took time to share more with me about the development of the character, his thoughts on bringing an end to the Rios series, and his forthcoming novel, The City of Palaces.
Kergan Edwards-Stout: You first gained literary acclaim for your Henry Rios mystery series. How did the tales originate?
Michael Nava: I started writing the first novel almost as a lark in my last year at law school. I was working from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. at the Palo Alto jail, where I interviewed men who had been arrested to determine if they were eligible for immediate release on their own recognizance or would have to post bail the next day. Palo Alto didn’t have that much crime so I spent many nights just waiting around or trying to study. At some point, I started writing what became The Little Death; indeed the very first scene has Rios walking into a jail which was the Palo Alto jail.
Edwards-Stout: Your lead character, a gay Latino criminal attorney involved in solving mysteries, broke many barriers. Were you conscious of how groundbreaking he might be? (more…)
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